Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans no longer will require tipsters to wait until a defendant is indicted before they can collect reward money for providing information that helps law enforcement to crack cases.
With the exception of homicide cases, tipsters will be paid their full cash reward following an arrest in a felony investigation, even if prosecutors later decide to refuse the charges. In murder cases, half of the reward will be paid after an arrest and the other half after a defendant has been indicted.
Darlene Cusanza, president and CEO of Crimestoppers, a nonprofit group that serves nine local parishes, said the policy changeis in keeping with a national trend.
“We looked nationally at what other Crimestopper units are doing, and many were paying out on arrest only, trying to be more responsive to the community,” she said. “Over the years, we’ve had people a little bit frustrated because of the time it could take to go from arrest to indictment in particular cases.”
With the new policy, “I think we’ll have more repeat callers,” she added. “I think people will be happy to see the change, and ultimately we’ll get more information to solve more crimes.”
The shift comes as Crimestoppers has seen steady increases in calls from the community. Last year, tips received by the organization increased by 10 percent over 2013, leading to 216 arrests.
A number of high-profile investigations were aided by Crimestoppers tips last year, including a shooting on Burgundy Streetin August that killed two people and wounded five others, including two children.
“We’ve seen people who call us and don’t even want the reward,” Cusanza said. “There’s a lot of people just wanting to be involved, and that’s truly a positive thing.”
Crimestoppers tipsters are never asked for their names or addresses, and even the recipient of reward money remains anonymous.
Callers are given a code number that allows them to track the status of the information they provide. The organization does not take down callers’ phone numbers and does not use caller ID, so it has no way to identify or contact the tipsters.
All reward money is paid in cash. The group paid out 72 rewards last year, totaling about $70,300.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.